OGP in the News – Week of February 5, 2018
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While OGP made news around the world, this week’s coverage was particularly strong in Europe following the European Leaders’ Forum on Open Government, and in the Asia-Pacific.
“The theme of open government is not new,” said Chief Executive Officer of ItaliaCamp, Fabrizio Sammarco, in a blog for Italy’s L’Huffington Post. Published just days before the European Leaders’ Forum on Open Government, Sammarco’s article acknowledged that there is “something more complex and disruptive at stake” with the relationship between the government and citizens shifting ever more toward a horizontal and collaborative model. He encouraged governments and civil society to look beyond national borders for open government inspiration, citing the European Leaders’ Forum as the perfect opportunity. Promoted by Italy’s Department of Public Administration and OGP, the event took place in Milan on February 5th with the main topic of discussion being the “role of civic participation as a tool for improving policy and systems of public governance.”
Covering the event itself, Varese News and Vita.it reported that the forum welcomed delegations from 19 European countries, including representatives from 14 governments and 25 civil society organizations. The day opened with remarks by Italian Minister of Simplification and Public Administration Marianna Madia, OGP CEO Sanjay Pradhan, the Deputy Mayor of Milan Anna Scavuzzo, and Deputy Secretary General of the OECD (Organization for Cooperation and Economic Development) Mari Kiviniemi. Discussions of open government best practices at both the national and local levels continued throughout the day, with participation from Romania’s Deputy Prime Minister for the Implementation of Strategic Partnerships, Ana Birchall, France’s Secretary of State for Digital Affairs, Mounir Mahjoubi, German Secretary of State at the Ministry of the Interior, Klaus Vitt, and the current mayor of OGP Local participant Tbilisi, Kakha Kaladze.
Elsewhere in Europe, the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) published a new transparency agenda, “Open Aid, Open Societies.” Promoted on the Gov.uk website, the report recognizes DFID as a leader in global transparency for its efforts to make “governments, company ownership and the oil and mining sectors more accountable, more responsive and more open.” Quoted in the article, Minister of State for International Development Harriett Baldwin applauded some of DFID’s major transparency accomplishments, including driving the UK to adopt the Open Contracting Standard and help found OGP in 2011. She underscored the overall, positive impact of open government, saying, “Transparency transforms people’s lives for the better by enabling countries to collect taxes, improve public services, and ensure a level-playing field in which businesses can flourish.”
Offering a different perspective, two lawyers, Frederick Saugman and Lloyd Firth, questioned UK leadership on transparency after the House of Lords rejected an amendment to the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill, which would require a public beneficial ownership register for companies registered in the country’s overseas territories (OT). The vote, notes the Lexology article, comes just four years after the UK hosted the 2013 OGP Global Summit, where then Prime Minister David Cameron described increased transparency as a “vaccine against corruption.” During the debate, Baroness Stern alluded to the Panama Papers and Paradise Papers, both of which revealed offshore companies as ripe picking grounds for money laundering and corruption. Part of the decision to vote down the amendment arose from constitutional ambiguity about “legislating directly for OTs, without their consent.” The bill will move to the House of Commons for further discussion.
Attending the international forum on the “Digital Agenda in the Era of Globalization,” Prime Minister of the Kyrgyz Republic Sapar Isakov cited the country’s recent joining of OGP as evidence of the government’s commitment to transparency and accountability. He also mentioned the recent launch of “Taza Koom,” a nationwide digitization project aimed at improving public services and raising standards of living. With plans to leverage modern technology at both the national and local level to foster more transparent procurement processes and reduce crime, Isakov sees a clear link between technological innovation and development. He reiterated the Kyrgyz Republic’s movement toward greater openness, saying, “Next year we want to be an Open Government, and we are working hard on this.”
The 2017 Open Budget Survey ranked the Philippines as the top performer on budget transparency in Asia and “cemented [its] position as a global leader in Open Government,” according to Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno. Offering words of caution on the results, Convenor-director of Government Watch (G-Watch) and a researcher for OGP’s Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM), Joy Aceron, authored an opinion piece for Rappler. Noting that the data collection period took place from September 2016 to December 2016, or some of the first months under the Duterte administration, Aceron writes that the report “reflects the practices and policies adopted by the immediately preceding government.” She also point out that “while the participation of the Philippine government in the Open Government Partnership (OGP) was sustained in the transition of 2016, this did not happen without difficulties.”
At the end of January, the African Union (AU) celebrated its 30th AU Summit and declared 2018 the African Anti-Corruption Year. National news outlet The Nation covered Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari’s participation at the the event, where he condemned corruption as “one of the greatest evils of our time.” Buhari detailed a few of his priorities for the 2018 anti-corruption campaign, including organizing the African Youth Congresses Against Corruption, implementing existing legal frameworks on corruption across all AU member states, and exchanging best practices on effectively criminalizing corruption. Some of his accomplishments on the anti-graft front in Nigeria, noted the article, have been leading the country to join OGP and carrying forward the CHANGE Agenda, which is “primarily aimed at fighting corruption.” To bolster these anti-corruption efforts and fulfill the nation’s OGP commitments, representatives of the African Centre for Leadership, Strategy and Development (Centre LSD) urged the National Assembly to remove Section 308 of the Constitution, which provides guaranteed immunity from prosecution for the president, vice president, governor, and his deputy.
Last but not least, did you know that OGP Local is expanding? We are looking for five new governments to join our impressive tier of local open government champions – more details here.
Of course, we can’t catch everything in our news round-ups, so if you see we’ve missed something or think a particular story ought to be featured, please send it to email@example.com.